Movies Watched in July 2015

These include three more Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies, some film noir, shhhh… a silent film, a summer blockbuster, and more:

cooley

Cooley High (1975) Michael Schultz
Library DVD, Olive Films
(1:47)

Previously discussed here

3.5/5

DANIEL RADCLIFFE as Harry Potter and EVANNA LYNCH as Luna Lovegood in Warner Bros. Pictures' fantasy "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”  PHOTOGRAPHS TO BE USED SOLELY FOR ADVERTISING, PROMOTION, PUBLICITY OR REVIEWS OF THIS SPECIFIC MOTION PICTURE AND TO REMAIN THE PROPERTY OF THE STUDIO. NOT FOR SALE OR REDISTRIBUTION

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) David Yates
(2:18)
DVD borrowed from SK

Please don’t barrage me with hate comments, but I stopped reading the Harry Potter books after this one. I thought Harry had turned into a whiny teenager (which, I suppose, he had) and cringed each time Delores Umbridge appeared. Yet I enjoyed the film quite a bit, although – like all of the Harry Potter films I’ve seen so far – it’s too long.

3.5/5

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The Bletchley Circle, Series 1 (TV 2012) Andy De Emmony
(2:15)
Netflix streaming

As this three-episode series opens we see four British women working as codebreakers during WWII. We don’t need a lot of explanation to know that they’re enormously intelligent, quick-thinking and resourceful. Nine years later, the war is over and the four women lead separate lives. Because of the secretive nature of their work, no one – not even their families – knows what they did in the war; they can’t even talk about their skills or use them in any official way. Until one day one of the women, Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin) uses some of her codebreaking skills to develop a theory about a local serial killer.

This first series (I have not seen the second) of The Bletchley Circle is a taut, gripping and intelligent show with extraordinary period detail and an excellent cast. The series is only three episodes (of approximately 45 minutes each) long, so you can watch the entire thing in one sitting. Although the ending doesn’t quite hold up as well as the rest of the show (and the show’s title is awful), I highly recommend The Bletchley Circle, Series 1.

4.5/5

GONE BABY GONE, Academy Award®-winner Ben Affleck's directorial debut, stars Casey Affleck (Ocean's Eleven), Michelle Monaghan (Mission: Impossible III), Academy Award®-winner Morgan Freeman and Academy Award®-nominee Ed Harris. Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River) and adapted for the screen by Affleck and Aaron Stockard, film tells the story of two private investigators hunting for an abducted 4-year-old girl in the seamiest side of Boston's underworld.

Gone Baby Gone (2007) Ben Affleck
(1:54)
Netflix streaming

I think it’s time we (and yes, I) give Ben Affleck some credit, especially after watching this story of Boston private detective Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) trying to find a kidnapped four-year-old girl. Casey Affleck is somewhat physically slight, which works well in this film, as he has to stand toe-to-toe with guys like Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Titus Welliver and others. The performances are excellent (including an Oscar-nominated performance by Amy Ryan as the girl’s drug-addicted mother) and the hard-hitting story from the novel by Dennis Lehane doesn’t pull any punches… until the end, which doesn’t quite measure up to the rest of the film. But give the Affleck brothers credit. This is a very effective film.

4.5/5

Film_358w_PandorasBox_original

Pandora’s Box (1929) G.W. Pabst
(2:13)
Hulu streaming

Like many other films in the Criterion Collection, Pandora’s Box had been on my “to watch” list for years. After reading Rick Geary’s excellent new fictional graphic novel Louise Brooks: Detective, I decided to watch her most famous film.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Louise Brooks plays a young woman whose raw allure and sexuality attract everyone around her, leading to lust, madness, and often violence. Yet Brooks as Lulu seems to think nothing of it, seeking good times wherever they may be found, despite the havoc she generates.

There’s far, far more to this film than this, however, both on and off-screen. The film stands on its own as a silent classic, but viewers should also know a little something about Brooks herself, including why she abandoned Hollywood to make films in Europe, her thoughts on acting, her place in film history, etc. There are layers upon layers to Brooks’s story and Pandora’s Box plays an essential part in exploring them. A proper review of this classic will require at least one more viewing and I hope that Criterion will give this film a Blu-ray upgrade soon.

5/5

holmes_secret

Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943) Roy William Neill
(1:08)
MPI Media Group Blu-ray

4/5

holmes_washington

Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943) Roy William Neill
(1:11)
MPI Media Group Blu-ray

Previously discussed here

3.5/5

holmes_faces

Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943) Roy William Neill
MPI Media Group Blu-ray
4/5

Both Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon and Sherlock Holmes Faces Death stand as effective entries in the Rathbone/Bruce film series. The former concerns Holmes attempting to protect a scientist from the Nazis, Dr. Franz Tobel (William Post Jr.), who has invented new technology for dropping bombs with pinpoint accuracy. The film also features Holmes’s nemesis Professor Moriarty (Lionel Atwill), up to his usual shenanigans.

The latter film, based on one of my favorite stories, “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual,” involves a stately manor in Northumberland which serves as a veteran’s hospital. Someone seems to be killing people connected with the hospital and the whole thing may have to do with a family secret that’s been guarded for centuries.

Again, both are solid films in the series showing Rathbone and Bruce in fine form. You can’t go wrong with these two, both of which are superior to Sherlock Holmes in Washington, which itself isn’t bad.

deadline-at-dawn-1946-susan-hayward

Deadline at Dawn (1946) Harold Clurman
(1:23)
Classic Film Noir Collection: Volume 5 DVD

Previously discussed here

3/5

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Backfire (1950) Vincent Sherman
(1:31)
Classic Film Noir Collection: Volume 5 DVD

Backfire is an appropriate title for this film noir. I thought – hoped – it would be one thing, yet it turned out to be something else. Bob Corey (Gordon MacRae) is a wounded soldier recovering from a spinal injury. When a strange woman (Viveca Lindfors) appears in his hospital room, claiming that Corey’s buddy Steve (Edmond O’Brien) has suffered his own spinal injury and wants to die, Corey is determined to find out what’s going on. All of this is very effective until we’re burdened with murky flashbacks, outrageous coincidences and bad writing. The film also stars Virginia Mayo, Dane Clark, and Ed Begley, none of whom, unfortunately, can rescue the film.

3/5

Film_742_PalmBeachStory_original

The Palm Beach Story (1942) Preston Sturges
(1:30)
Library DVD (Criterion Collection)

The Palm Beach Story is a wonderful screwball comedy about a woman named Gerry (Claudette Colbert) wanting to divorce her husband Tom (Joel McCrea) so she can marry a millionaire who can then help finance Tom’s business. Rudy Vallee plays the millionaire on Gerry’s radar, but she hadn’t counted on the millionaire’s sister, played by a fast-taking Mary Astor. The whole film is great fun and even the switcheroo ending can’t spoil it.

4.5/5

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In a Lonely Place (1950) Nicholas Ray
(1:34)
Columbia DVD (UK edition)

I’ll have more to say about this one in the near future, but for now I’ll just say that I’ve waited years to see this classic film noir and wasn’t disappointed in the least. Humphrey Bogart plays a screenwriter with a volatile temper and the woman (Gloria Grahame) who loves him becomes trapped in a dark nightmare. One of the greats in film noir.

5/5

ant-man-trailer

Ant-Man (2015) Peyton Reed
(1:57)
Regal Cinemas Waugh Chapel 12

Maybe it’s because my expectations were fairly low, or maybe it’s because this is one of Marvel’s lesser (no pun intended) superheroes that has neither a huge following nor tons of lore, but Ant-Man really impressed me. It’s what a good summer movie should be: filled with action, fun, and characters you care about. What else do you want? Galactus? Not this time…

4/5

train

The Train (1964) John Frankenheimer
(2:13)
Arrow Academy Blu-ray (UK)

One of the supplements on the Arrow UK Blu-ray touts The Train as the last black-and-white action/adventure film. That may be true. It may also be one of the finest adventure films in either black-and-white or color. The plot is fairly straight-forward: while the Allies are days away from liberating Paris from the Nazis, a trainload of art is being sent to Berlin. A French Resistance fighter named Labiche (Burt Lancaster) runs the train yard. Labiche cares nothing for the art on the train, only for his countrymen who might die in protecting it. In contrast, the German colonel (Paul Scofield) in charge of moving the art by train, appreciates the artwork and wants to please Hitler by delivering it to him before the Allies can arrive.

Although the film is over two hours long, Frankenheimer wastes no time. Every scene, every shot is essential and moves the story along. This isn’t an action movie along the lines of Die-Hard or the Bourne films. For one thing, the film includes real trains running down real tracks, real wrecks, and real bombings using real dynamite. The action is balanced with lots of scenes brimming over with reflection, conflict and inner character suspense. Lancaster is very good here (doing his own stunts), but he might just be upstaged by the brilliant Paul Scofield. When they say “They don’t make movies like they used to,” this is one of the ones they’re talking about.

I purchased the Arrow Blu-ray from the UK (for about $17) since the American Blu-ray from Twilight Time is selling for outrageous prices (used copies from $89.95 as of this writing).

5/5

(Photos: Martin Teller’s Movie ReviewsWool and WheelDémodé, Criterion CollectionFilmosphereBasil RathboneClassic Film FreakSense of CinemaThe IndependentFarts & Leisure)

One thought on “Movies Watched in July 2015

  1. Pingback: Best Movies of 2015: Film Noir | Journeys in Darkness and Light

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